Wilmington fire chief set to retire in September

WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s fire chief, Cecil V. “Buddy” Martinette, will retire from his post on Sept. 11, after more than 13 years serving the Wilmington Fire Department, according to a press release.

Martinette began his career when he was 15 years old and volunteered as a junior firefighter in Virginia Beach. He was employed by the Virginia Beach Fire Department thereafter for 25 years, moving from battalion chief to chief fire marshal. He moved to Lynchburg Fire and EMS Department in Lynchburg, Virginia, later to serve as chief for six years.

In 2008, Martinette headed south to Wilmington.

“I had the honor of appointing Chief Martinette 13 years ago and he has played a vital role leading the modernization of Wilmington’s fire department, opening new fire stations, and improving fire services in our community,” Mayor Bill Saffo said in a press release.

During Martinette’s time in southeastern North Carolina, he helped open fire stations in Wilmington, as well as modernize operations and improve services for the community.

“Chief Martinette came to us at an important time in our history and was a transformational leader for this department,” Deputy Chief Steve Mason said in a release. “Under his leadership, we became a progressive model for the modern fire service, prioritizing the health, safety, and wellness of firefighters, professional development and training of staff, and the implementation of community risk reduction.”

“The men and women of this department are truly amazing, and I will not soon forget their efforts to make our department among the finest in the world,” Martinette said in a release. “I admire and appreciate each and every one of them for the professionalism they display each day and the dedication they have to our profession.”

According to retired battalion chief David Hines, Martinette led the Wilmington Fire Department to becoming one of 200 internationally accredited agencies in 2014 and again in 2019. In 2016, then-Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Martinette to the NC State Emergency Response Commission, and in 2018 Martinette served on the state 911 board.

He has been hailed for his search-and-rescue operations, including deployments for multiple hurricanes — Floyd to Fran, Charlie to Katrina. He was called to the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma and the Pentagon collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Martinette’s experience has led him to pen numerous articles about his search and rescues, and he even authored the first through third editions of the “Trench Rescue — Principles and Practice to NFPA 1006 and 1670.” He has lectured about his rescue operations to various agencies nationwide.

Martinette said in a release hew will continue his service in some capacity after retirement: He is the second vice president of the North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs Board, the first vice president of the Southeastern Association of Firefighters, and is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Global Public Safety Solutions Board.

“He has provided a solid foundation for continued progress,” Mayor Saffo continued in the release. “On behalf of the entire city council, I wish him an enjoyable and well-deserved retirement after a long and distinguished career.”

The Wilmington City Council will address how to move forward in hiring a new fire chief position later in the month.

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